By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.
The Progress Theatre’s latest production is Harold Pinter’s 1978 classic, Betrayal, which is famously based on Pinter’s real-life affair with BBC television presenter Joan Bakewell. In this play, he uses clever reverse chronology to explore the complex theme of betrayal.
This is a thoroughly absorbing production, sensitively directed by the talented Adrian Tang who opts to closely follow the original structure of the play.
The soundtracks are evocative, matching both mood and era, and the sets are simple and effective, with a helpful back projection indicating the date and location.
It is a story of middle-class adultery in which literary agent Jerry betrays his best friend publisher Robert by having an affair with his wife Emma. The play opens on the dying embers of the 7 year relationship. It is a bleak reunion of the two lovers, the tension heightened by Pinter’s economical script and characteristic pauses.
The action spools back over the course of the affair, revealing the haunted half-lives of the adulterers in their amorous love nest, torn between two homes and two sets of memories. The action takes place in London and Venice, with an underlying emotional charge and tension throughout; this is lightened by some delightful humorous interludes… watch out for the witty exchange on whether girl or boy babies experience the most anxiety!
The charmingly insinuating Waiter (Mathieu Menard) also lifts the mood with his delicious cameo.
The play finally returns to the starting point, with the first flickers of attraction between Jerry and Emma in an upbeat and spontaneous scene giving the audience a sense of redemption and hope.
Peter Cook is impeccable as the bleak-hearted Jerry, dispassionate and hollow, whilst Emma (Emma Sterry) reveals a touching vulnerability and pathos, which shine through her duplicity. Paul Gallantry, as the emotionally sadistic Robert, gives us a powerful performance; misogynistic, yet tender and funny.
It is a fascinating study of the workings of the frail human heart and the entire cast and crew are to be congratulated on a compelling and spellbinding production. We left the theatre pondering on possibilities. Don’t miss it!
‘Betrayal’ opens at the Progress Theatre, The Mount, Reading on Monday 12 June and runs until Saturday 17 June. Tickets can be bought online or by telephone on 0118 384 2169.
- The Progress Theatre website and Facebook page
- ‘Betrayal’ at the Progress Theatre
- Progress Theatre tickets